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SLIDE5

Mudslides being monitored in Martinique

FORT-DE-FRANCE, Martinique, Jan. 11, CMC – The National Emergency Management Organization (NEMO) has sought to clarify reports circulating on social media, of volcanic activity taking place on the island.

SLIDE5In a statement on Thursday, NEMO said  images being circulated  are not pyroclastic flows, but rather rapid flowing volcanic mudslide of rock debris and water known as “lahar” which occurred in the river Prêcheur  – in the northern end of the island earlier this week.

According to NEMO, the mud flows are due to recent heavy rains on the island.

The river Prêcheur is located between Mount Pelée and the extinct Mont Conil volcanoes.

“The island has experienced occurrences of lahar in previous years; and a more recent occurrence was on June 19, 2010 where twenty houses near the Prêcheur river had been impacted without causing loss of life,” NEMO said.

Pyroclastic flows are fast-moving current of hot gas and volcanic matter made up of high-density mix of hot lava blocks, pumice, ash and volcanic gas. They move at very high speed down volcanic slopes, typically following valleys.

NEMO  says the Volcanic and Seismological Observatory of Martinique has established an active intelligence unit that will continue to monitor the development of the phenomenon .

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earthquake

Massive earthquake jolts Caribbean

TEGUCIGALPA, Jan. 10, CMC –  A 7.6 magnitude earthquake struck the Caribbean region between the coast of Honduras and the Cayman Islands late Tuesday – one of the strongest quakes to hit the region in recent times.

earthquakeHonduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez said the Central American nation had activated its emergency system and asked people to remain calm.

The earthquake  was also felt across northern Central America,  this prompted the US Tsunami Warning Centre to issue a statement that hazardous tsunami waves were possible within 621 miles of  the quake’s epicentre.

These included the coastal areas of Jamaica, Mexico, Cuba, Belize, Costa Rica, Panama, Cayman Islands, Honduras, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

According to  the US Geological Survey, the quake was very shallow and this would have amplified the effect of a tsunami

The US Tsunami Center later cancelled the alert, but warned some parts of  Honduras and Belize were still at risk from waves of  up to a metre.

In Honduras, firefighters said some residents in southern neighborhoods fled their homes after feeling the tremors.

There were no reports of  damage.

The magnitude 7.6 earthquake was one of the strongest ever measured in the region, occurred almost eight years after a 7.0 magnitude quake devastated Haiti on January 12, 2010.

Meanwhile, it has been revealed that ninety-two earthquakes were recorded in Jamaica last year.

Scientific Officer at the Earthquake Unit at The University of  the West Indies Mona Campus, Karleen Black, says felt earthquake reports were received for eight events with magnitudes ranging from 3.1 to 3.6.

Speaking at the launch of Earthqukae Awareness Week on Monday, Black said while Jamaica has experienced several tremors, the last major event was the great Kingston earthquake of 1907, which caused more than 1,000 deaths, damaged numerous buildings and started several fires.

The 1692 Port Royal quake was perhaps the largest and most damaging, with about 5,000 deaths from the quake itself and the subsequent outbreak of yellow fever. A section of the town sank into the sea.

Earthquake Awareness Week is being observed from January 7-13 under the theme ‘Preparing for the Quake Helps Reduce Damage After the Shakes’. n

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earthquake

Caribbean countries jolted by minor earthquake

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, Dec 30, CMC – An earthquake , measuring 4.7 jolted two Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries on Friday night, but there were no reports of injuries or damage.

earthquakeThe Trinidad-based Seismic Research centre (SRC) of the University of the West Indies (UWI) said the quake, which occurred at 11.14 pm (local time) was felt 39 kilometres (km) north west of St. John’s in Antigua and Barbuda and 68 km east of Basseterre, the capital of St. Kitts-Nevis.

It was also felt 137 km north-west of the capital of the French island of Guadeloupe.

The SRC said that the quake had a depth of 81 km and was located Latitude: 17.34N, Longitude: 62.12W

On Thursday, the SRC reported that Trinidad and Tobago was jolted by a quake measuring 4.7 and at a depth of 10 km, was also felt in Venezuela.

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President Jovenel Moïse

CARICOM moving to create the world’s first climate resilient region

PORT AU PRINCE, Haiti, Dec. 31, CMC – Incoming chairman of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), Haiti’s President Jovenel Moïse says the regional grouping is moving towards crating the world’s first climate resilient region in the year ahead.

“2018 dawns for the Caribbean Community, with the prospect of seizing an opportunity out of a crisis,” said Moïse in his New Year’s message.

President Jovenel Moïse
President Jovenel Moïse

“As we begin the rebuilding process after the devastating hurricanes of last September, as well Hurricane Matthew, which pounded the region on October 3-4, 2016, we do so with the aim of creating the first climate resilient region in the world.

“The absolute necessity to create a climate smart region is clear given the effects of climate change, which have brought us droughts, mega hurricanes, heavy floods and unusual weather patterns, all of which adversely affect our development,” he added.

“The social and economic gains that we have made individually and collectively must be protected against the onslaught of nature. The CARICOM Member States’, as well as the region’s non-member States’ production of greenhouse gases, is practically nil, even though they bear a disproportionate share of the consequences.”

Moïse said the goodwill and pledges, “which have been forthcoming from the international community at two major global conferences in New York and Paris give us hope that the necessary support to achieve our objective will be forthcoming.”

He said the region’s efforts are against the backdrop of the Caribbean Community’s Strategic Plan for the period 2015-19, “which is our guide towards the economic, social, environmental and technological resilience that is needed to produce sustained growth and development for our community.”

The incoming CARICOM chairman said efforts will be made in 2018 in increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME) in “providing the basis for our economic growth.”

Moïse said since many of the major legislative and administrative measures for the operations of the Single Market are in effect, it is, therefore, now up to all of the stakeholders in the public and private sectors to ensure they derive maximum benefits from the CSME’s provisions.

“This would enable us to increase our intra-regional trade, share our best human resources, and encourage our entrepreneurs to expand their interests and provide us with a platform to move from market access to market presence in those countries with which we have trade agreements,” he said. “The CSME undoubtedly remains our best vehicle for creating the economic resilience we need.”

The Haitian president also said the reform process underway in the Community will allow the region to conduct its affairs “more efficiently and effectively and will also benefit the operations of the CSME.”

He said member states, regional institutions and the CARICOM Secretariat have been streamlining their interactions to produce the best possible results from the decisions taken by the Heads of Government and the Ministerial Councils.

“We are entering the final two years of the Strategic Plan and the results of the three partners’ efforts at implementing it are beginning to bear fruit.”

But Moïse warned that the solidity and efficiency of that partnership will be “tested as never before given the magnitude of the rebuilding task ahead of us.We have to rebuild with resilience now to forestall damage in the future; in other words, to build back better,” he said. “I am confident that the creativity and determination of our people will allow us to achieve that goal.”

Moïse thanked his predecessor, the Prime Minister of Grenada, Dr. Keith Mitchell, for his “outstanding performance in leading the Community during one of the most difficult periods in our history.

“I look forward to building on his achievements,” he said. “With assistance from all, we shall maintain our Community on a path to sustainable development and a safe, secure, viable and prosperous society.”

Moïse said among issues he intends to advance during his tenure will be those related to natural disasters and climate change.

He said Haiti looks forward to welcoming the Community to its shores in February for the 29th Intersessional Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government.

“The warmth and hospitality of the Haitian people await you,” he said, while wishing all CARICOM citizens “a very happy and productive New Year, as we work together to continue building a resilient Community that advances the interests of all its citizens.”

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Dominica devastation

YEARENDER-Caribbean wobbles under the impact of climate change

By Peter Richards

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Dec 28, CMC – In 2017, the Caribbean felt the full brunt of climate change with a warning that current trends indicate that there will be no respite.

Within a two-week period, Hurricanes Irma and Maria brought home the reality of the impact of climate change as they churned their way across the Lesser Antilles destroying everything in their paths. Hurricane Harvey had in August set the stage for what was to come; with devastation in Houston, Texas, amounting to nearly US$200billion.

Dominica devastation
Hurricane damage in Dominica (File Photo)

“The unprecedented nature of this climatic event highlights the unusual nature of weather patterns that continue to affect nations across the globe,” the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretary General Irwin LaRocque said in a message to United States President Donald Trump, as Harvey made landfall in the United States after whipping up strong winds and heavy rains in the Caribbean.

It took less than a month for his statement to bear fruit. Hurricanes Irma and Maria, two Category 5 storms left so many Caribbean islands devastated in September that the CARICOM Chairman and Grenada’s Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell said “there can be no question that for us in the Caribbean, climate change is an existential threat”.

The islands dealt the hardest blow were Barbuda where the entire population had to be evacuated to the larger island of Antigua, Dominica where at least 30 people were killed, Anguilla, The Bahamas, the Turks and Caicos Islands, The British Virgin Islands and St. Kitts-Nevis.

“The task of rebuilding is beyond us,” LaRocque noted as Caribbean countries put the cost of the damage at billions of dollars.

“With physical and emotional difficulty, I have left my bleeding nation to be with you here today, because these are the moments for which the United Nations exists,” Dominica’s Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit told the 72nd Session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) as he pleaded for international assistance to rebuild his battered country.

“We dug graves today in Dominica! We buried loved ones yesterday; and, I am sure that as I return home tomorrow, we shall discover additional fatalities, as a consequence of this encounter. Our homes are flattened, our buildings roofless, our water pipes smashed, and road infrastructure destroyed.

Barbuda Hurricane
Hurricane damage in Barbuda

“Our hospital is without power, and schools have disappeared beneath the rubble. Our crops are uprooted. Where there was green, there is now only dust and dirt. The desolation is beyond imagination,” an emotional Skerrit said, noting that Caribbean countries do not produce greenhouse gases or sulphate aerosols, nor do they pollute or overfish the oceans.

“We have made no contribution to global warming that can move the needle. But yet, we are among the main victims – on the frontline,” he added.

But even as the international community pledged more than two billions US dollars in aid, loans and debt relief, for regional countries there’s a great deal more to be done.

For years, Caribbean countries have complained about the conditions for accessing concessionary loans on the international market and United Nations Secretary General António Guterres urged the international community to re-think the policy.

Guterras, who paid a visit to hurricane battered Caribbean countries, said most of the islands impacted by the storms were middle-income countries and because of that, they are deprived of the form of assistance or concessional loans that low-income countries can have access to.

“The fact is that even though these countries have graduated as middle-income countries, they have a number of vulnerabilities that need to be taken into account if we want them to be sustainable as middle-income countries,” he added.

Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne argued that it was unfair for small, vulnerable states to be denied access to concessionary rates because of their per capita income.

He told the UNGA there was no justice in large, wealthy countries borrowing at a favourable three per cent per annum while “so called ‘high income’ small island states are forced to borrow commercially at 12 per cent per annum, to repeatedly rebuild.

“I want to make the call again for the issue of per capita income, that nonsensical criterion, to be scrapped. It is an impediment to the growth and development of small island states,” said Browne, a former senior banker.

Dominica PM at UN
Dominica Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit

Dominica has made it known it wants to become the world’s first climate resilient country, with Skerrit emphasizing “it’s an existential matter for us. It’s the only way forward”.

The Caribbean has since launched a new public-private coalition to create the world’s first “Climate-Smart Zone” aimed at finding a way to break through the systemic obstacles that stop finance flowing to climate-smart investments.

The ambitious eight billion US dollar investment plan is intended to bring greater energy and infrastructure resilience to 3.2 million Caribbean households.

“The Caribbean is in the ‘eye of the storm’ and we need coordinated international support to rebuild and better plan for the future. At the World Bank Group, we welcome the Caribbean Climate-Smart Coalition and plan to support it so countries get back on their feet and are better able to deal with the growing frequency and intensity of storms and hurricane,” said Jim Yong Kim, World Bank Group president.

The project has brought together a coalition of global organizations such as the Inter-American Development Bank, the World Bank, and the Barbados-based Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), as well as businesses and supporters from the Caribbean and the international community.

“This is a great first step. Now, we need to turn this possibility into a set of realities that benefit all our people. We all need to work together to change the rules of the game to accelerate climate-smart financial flows for the Caribbean,” said Mitchell.

The managing director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Christine Lagarde, said the Washington-based financial institution is prepared to support the Caribbean with recovery funding and is cognizant of the impact of natural disasters on economic development and stability in the Caribbean.

Browne at UN
Prime Minister Gaston Browne

Addressing the sixth IMF High level Caribbean forum in Jamaica in November, she said that the IMF is ready to provide leadership with sourcing special funding and expertise to assist the region in developing mitigation and resilience strategies over the short and long term.

Lagarde said the hurricanes “have again highlighted the special vulnerabilities of the Caribbean, and the need to strengthen its resilience.

The 2017 Atlantic Hurricane season served as a major distraction for Caribbean countries still battling with serious socio-economic problems such as crime, unemployment, poverty, shortage of foreign exchange and significant revenue losses due to the decline in commodity prices on the global market.

Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago during the year reiterated their positions of not going to the IMF for assistance to reverse their ailing economies, while Belize said it had rejected an offer from the Washington-based financial institution.

“Barbados cannot turn its back on having its debt restructured under a Fund programme. It cannot run its back on having many of these other things…done under a Fund programme,” warned former Barbados Prime Minister Owen Arthur, an economist.

Port of Spain, which is also suffering from a foreign exchange shortage due mainly to the drastic decline in the price for its energy products on the global market, has instead implemented belt-tightening measures that include a reduction in state-funded education.

“In this period of significant decline in foreign exchange inflows, it will be unreasonable and dangerous to use up our foreign exchange as we were accustomed to,” Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley has said, noting, “this would be paving our way into the arms of the IMF, and that is something that Government is not prepared to do”.

Dr. Keith Mitchelle
Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell

He said there had been a 90 per cent decline in revenue between 2014 and 2017 from the energy sector.

“And since government revenues have declined so precipitously, it is to be expected that public sector employment would be in serious jeopardy. The Government has been at pains to keep the level of employment stable, even as we wind down the expenditure highs,” he warned.

Belize Prime Minister Dean Barrow, who has already signalled his intention to quit active politics, during the year implemented a number of belt tightening measures and froze expenditure on non-essential goods and services.

He said that his administration, had prior to the presentation of the national budget, held discussions with the IMF whose recipe was to increase taxation, eliminate those items “mostly basic food and medical supplies, that are zero rated, cancel exemptions for the productive sector and raise the tax take from the personal and business income.

“And so we reject those options as regressive and punitive to both citizens and enterprise. Instead, we have come up with our own formula. And it does involve measured consolidation,” he added.

Guyana has said it will be working with the US based oil giant, ExxonMobil, to develop a long-term relationship founded on transparency, accountability, openness and aligned interests for the good of the country following its newfound wealth.

ExxonMobil said it would be investing five billion US dollars as it prepares to explore oil production in Guyana by 2020 and President David Granger said Guyanese must be able to view the development of a petroleum industry as one that is beneficial to the nation’s interest.

“We are at the start of an oil and gas industry….we take decisions at the Cabinet level and then those decisions are taken to the National Assembly and we do not see that process changing. All Guyanese must feel involved in the process,” Granger said. However, by yearend there was controversy over the payment of an estimated US$18 million signing bonus.

“Let me say that signing bonuses are customary and normal in many petroleum agreements, not all, but in many around the world as part of the total financial agreement”, said ExxonMobil country manager, Rod Henson, as the opposition People’s Progressive Party (PPP) pressed the government to come clean on the issue.

The CDB is predicting that economic recovery in the Caribbean will be at 1.7 per cent this year based on a return to positive growth in Trinidad and Tobago.

“Notwithstanding, the risks to the outlook are tilted on the downside. Domestic headwinds to growth reside with the legacy effects of the (mosquito borne) Zika virus although no longer an international epidemic in redirecting tourist arrivals away from the region; and the loss of CBRs, (correspondent banking relationships) which could affect financial stability,” it added.

The St. Kitts-Based Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB) unveiled a five-year strategic plan which it said focuses on the goals that are needed to improve the financial institution’s relevance and address more strategically, the expectations of stakeholders in relation to socio-economic transformation.

“At this point in the region’s history when it is facing unprecedented challenges related to high unemployment and devastating natural disasters, the plan takes cognizance of these and other challenges and is aptly themed: ‘Transforming the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union Together,’ said the ECCB, which acts as a central bank for Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Montserrat, St. Kitts-Nevis, Anguilla and the British Virgin Islands.

But even as the Caribbean was putting its economic house in order, it has yet again been stung by policies in Europe likely to affect economic growth. The European Union named several regional countries as tax havens with Prime Minister Skerrit jokingly advocating for CARICOM countries to reciprocate.

“I think CARICOM should start coming up with its own list too and start blacklisting countries likewise. Is that a practice we should take or route we should take,” he asked, telling reporters “I think I should end there, I think I should end here on this” as he laughed out loudly.

But it was no laughing matter for the 15-member grouping that strongly objected to the listing. LaRocque said the decision by Europe had been based on new and unilaterally-determined criteria that go beyond the generally accepted international tax transparency and accountability standards.

“CARICOM strongly objects to this listing of our member states and calls on the EU to remove our member states from this pernicious list,” he said.

The University of the West Indies (UWI) also chimed in on the issue with the Vice-Chancellor, Sir Hilary Beckles, noting the unilateral EU blacklisting “undermine the entire process of accountability and fairness in financial matters carefully constructed by the world community.

“Further, whether intentional or accidental, this action is tantamount to creating a competitive advantage for offshore financial centers operating within the national jurisdiction of European Union member states.”

New governments came to office in 2017 even as there was widespread speculation that voters in several other Caribbean countries would be going to the polls in snap elections.

In the Bahamas, medical practitioner, Dr. Hubert Minnis led his Free National Movement (FNM) to a convincing victory in the May 10 general election almost wiping out the then ruling Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) that won four of the 39 seats at stake. Among the causalities was Prime Minister Perry Christie, who subsequently resigned as party leader with immediate effect.

In an unprecedented move, long-time political rivals Alden McLaughlin, the incumbent premier and leader of the Peoples Progressive Movement (PPM) and McKeeva Bush who heads the opposition Cayman Democratic Party (CDP), signed an agreement to form a coalition government in the Cayman Islands after the general election provided a mixed bag for the major political parties as the independent candidates claimed victory in most of the seats in what was described as a “historic poll”.

The poll was significant in that Caymanians voted for the first time for a government under the equitable system of ‘one man, one vote’ in single member consistencies.

In another British Overseas Territory, David Burt, 38, emerged as the youngest ever head of government in Bermuda after he led his Progressive Labour Party (PLP) to a 24-12 victory in reversing the defeat the party had suffered at the hands of the One Bermuda Alliance in 2012.

In the Dutch island of Curacao, the  Partido Alternativa Real (PAR) led by its new political leader, Eugene Rhuggenaath won six of the 21 seats in Parliament with the PARTIDO (MAN) party and the MFK, the former coalition partner in the last government, winning five seats each,.

The Korsou di Nos Tur (KdNT) won two seats, and the PIN, PS and Movementu Progresivo (MP) winning one seat each.

But elections were not the only way in which parliamentarians left or indicated a willingness to leave office.

Prime Minister Browne removed his tourism and investment minister, Asot Michael, from the cabinet following his detention at the Gatwick Airport by British law enforcement authorities.

“…prior to his arrest (I) knew there was an issue in which there was an investigation involving him and by the way what I was told it involves him soliciting contracts for a UK national,” Browne would later inform the nation, while Michael in a statement said that he was “sorry” that the prime minister had not contacted him prior to making public his removal from the cabinet.

Michael has since said that he has been advised by his lawyers not to make any further comment on the situation regarding his detention in the United Kingdom.

Montserrat Premier Donaldson Romeo fired his agriculture and environment minister, Claude Hogan, with immediate effect less than 48 hours after Hogan took to the airwaves saying there was need for a new paradigm in dealing with the socio-economic development of the volcano ravaged British Overseas Territory while downplaying persistent rumours of plans to oust Romeo as head of the government.

St. Lucia’s agriculture minister Jimmy Henry resigned following reports that he was recently stopped and searched at the George Charles Airport.

” I have decided to tender my resignation with immediate effect from the senate and as a Minister. Due to these personal matters at this time, I am unable to give the attention necessary to my ministerial duties,” Henry said.

pnpportria
Portia Simpson Miller

Jamaica’s first woman Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller as well as her ministerial colleague, Dr. Omar Davies, quit active politics in 2017 and the sudden death of Dr. Winston Green, resulted in three-by-elections. The main opposition People’s National Party (PNP) suffered a setback after it lost one of the three seats it previously held in the Parliament to the ruling Jamaica Labour Party (JLP).

Sir Lester Bryant Bird, who served as the second Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda announced his retirement from active politics. Sir Lester, who was born on February 21, 1938 served as prime minister from 1994-2004, replacing his father, Sir Vere Bird.

“I know that, in as much as my brain has much to contribute, age has taken its toll on my physical capacity. It would be unfair to impose upon the readiness of the people of Rural East to maintain me as their representative,” Sir Lester told the Parliament.

Attorney Joshua Francis, the former deputy leader of the main opposition United Workers Party (UWP), announced his resignation from active politics in Dominca, describing his “political journey” as being “very turbulent”.

In Grenada, where there has been much speculation that Prime Minister Mitchell will call an early poll, the deputy leader of the ruling New National Party (NNP) Elvin Nimrod, announced his resignation from politics.

There had been widespread speculation also in Barbados of Prime Minister Freundel Stuart seeking a fresh mandate from the electorate with the main opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP) urging him to do so accusing his administration of bringing the island into ruin.

“I want to exhort members of the Democratic Labour Party not to grow wary … you have nothing to be ashamed of, don’t get distracted by a lot of the incoherent noises you hear from time to time. Those issues are going to be settled on a date that I will determine,” Prime Minister Stuart said, adding “we will rout our adversaries and put them to flight”.

While there has been speculation about early polls in other Caribbean countries, the main opposition in St. Vincent and the Grenadines is continuing a legal challenge to the results of the 2015 general election that led to in the Unity Labour Party (ULP) of Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves securing a fourth consecutive term in office.

The main opposition New Democratic Party (NDP) says it has a duty and obligation to pursue to the end, the two election petitions that are still before the court and a High Court judge is expected to hand down a ruling early in 2018 on moves by the opposition involving the ballots used in the election.

“Just remember how it was in December of 2015. After the election, the people felt that something was wrong. I was out on the streets of Kingstown and people were angry and we told them, yes, come out, express yourself, do it peacefully, because that is the way that we do things in St. Vincent and the Grenadines,” said NDP leader Dr. Godwin Friday.

In Dominica, legal moves are underway to declare Opposition Leader Lennox Linton, bankrupt, which could result in his removal from the Dominica parliament.

Chartered accountant, Kieron Pinard-Byrne, said he has instructed his lawyers to proceed with the move after Linton failed to pay a significant sum of money awarded to the accountant by the London-based Privy Council, which at the time served as Dominica’s final and highest court.

According to the bankruptcy petition filed in the High Court here on December 6, Pinard-Byrne said that on September 15, this year, Linton paid £1,200.00 towards the judgment debt and £24,792.12 with five per cent interest per annum remains unpaid.

Dominica also grabbed the regional headlines in 2017 when police used teargas to o disperse supporters of the UWP after they set fires across the capital and looted several business places.

The protestors had earlier marched to the Financial Center, where the office of the Prime Minister Skerrit is located, demanding his resignation as well as his entire Cabinet. Government would later view the unrest as an attempt to seize power by force.

In Haiti, the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) is yet to decide on the political future of former rebel leader turned politician, Guy Philippe, who pleaded guilty earlier this year to a drug money-laundering charge in the United States.

The deal between US law enforcement authorities and Philippe resulted in the former police officer avoiding a potential sentence of life in prison for cocaine trafficking.

President Jovenel Moise was sworn into office in February after he convincingly won the November 20th presidential election last year, becoming the French country’s 58th head of state.

The 48-year-old businessman succeeded Michel Martelly, who left office one year ago in an environment of political uncertainty after efforts to stage presidential and legislative elections before his departure were unsuccessful.

As the year drew to an end, CARICOM countries were divided on whether or not to support the decision by the United States to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

More than 100 members of the United Nations backed a non-binding resolution that called on President Trump to reverse his decision to recognize Jerusalem even as Washington threatened it would not forget countries that support the resolution that read in part “any decisions and actions which purport to have altered, the character, status or demographic composition of the Holy City of Jerusalem have no legal effect, are null and void and must be rescinded in compliance with relevant resolutions of the [UN] Security Council”.

No CARICOM was in support of the US move with Washington. However, Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago were among the 35 countries that abstained during the vote.

Among the CARICOM states that voted with the 128 countries in favour of the resolution were Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Suriname.

St. Lucia was among the 21 countries that stayed away from the UN General Assembly on the day of the vote and the island’s Foreign Affairs Minister Sarah Flood-Beaubrun would later say that St. Lucia was of the opinion that the matter of the location of a foreign mission is solely a decision for a sovereign country to make.

“In any event, on the Israeli-Palestinian question, both sides are claiming exclusivity and the matter is primarily for the parties themselves to decide,” she added.

crimmeeGun related murders were becoming a daily occurrence in countries like Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Bahamas and Belize during 2017.

The death toll in Jamaica had increased by 21 per cent over the 2016 figure with the authorities reporting 1,581 murders, one week before the end of 2017. The authorities said 53 children were among those killed.

Trinidad and Tobago was nearing the 500 mark by yearend as compared to 463 the previous year, while in Belize, the police blamed gang rivalry for contributing to the 138 murders, two weeks before the end of the year.

Sadly, the region bade farewell to several people, including  the region’s second Nobel Laureate, Sir Derek Walcott of St. Lucia,  the St. Vincent and the Grenadines social and political activist, Oscar Allen, whom Prime Minister Gonsalves described as “one of our outstanding sons” and the Jamaican football administrator , Horace Burrell.

The Bahamas gave an official funeral to former National Security Minister, Dr. Bernard J. Nottage, who died in a United States hospital. Haiti also gave a state funeral to former President Rene Preval.

Several members of the media fraternity also passed, including Jamaicans Lester Spaulding and Ian Boyne, Grenadians Trevor Thwaites, Wayne Modeste and Rollin Williams,  St. Lucian Lawrence James, while Trinidad and Tobago said farewell to Devon Mathew, a radio announcer and soca star as well as Deborah John, the daughter of the late journalist George John.

Dominican Kurt Mathew, the 48-year-old engineer, who was lauded for his efforts in keeping the state-owned DBS radio on the air during the passage of Hurricane Maria, was killed in a vehicular accident.

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Northeastern Caribbean rocked by 5.2 earthquake -Strong tremor jolts St. Kitts and Nevis

By December 24, 2017

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados (CMC) — Several countries in the northeastern Caribbean were rocked by a 5.2-magnitude earthquake this morning.

The quake, which struck at around 11:12 am (local) time, was centred about 22 kilometres north-northeast off the island of St Barth.

The Trinidad based Seismic Research Unit at the University of the West Indies (UWI) said the earthquake had a depth of 74.5 kilometres.

It was also felt in St Martin, Anguilla, St Kitts Nevis, Antigua and Barbuda, the US Virgin Islands, the British Virgin Islands, Guadeloupe and Puerto Rico.

There were no reports of damage or injuries.

Basseterre, St. Kitts – An earthquake with a magnitude of 5.8 rocked St Kitts and Nevis Sunday morning, but there are no reports of injuries or damage.

The Trinidad-based Seismic Research Unit says the 5.8 tremor was recorded at 11:12 am (local time) at a latitude of 18.23N, longitude of 62.81 W at depth of 68 km.

The centre of the quake was located 103 km N  of Basseterre, Saint Kitts and Nevis, 163 km NW of Saint John’s, Antigua and Barbuda and 261 km NW of Point-à-Pitre, Guadeloupe.

Strong tremor jolts St. Kitts and NevisThe earthquake measured 5.2 off the coast of St. Maarten/St. Martin and St. Barths.

According to 721 News the epicentre was located at 18.1N62.8 W or about 14 miles East of Philipsburg, St. Maarten; 17 miles East of Marigot, St. Martin or about 12 miles north of Gustavia, St. Barths.

According to the UWI Seisemoic Unit in Trinidad magnitude is related to the energy generated when a fault ruptures and produces an earthquake. There are different ways to determine magnitude. In one method, three characteristics of the fault zone are used in the calculation:

  • The area that ruptures during the earthquake.
  • The amount of displacement during the earthquake.
  • The stiffness of the rocks that break.

“When we multiply these numbers, we obtain a number called the seismic moment. The seismic moment is then converted into another number called the moment magnitude (or simply magnitude). In our region, we use the duration of the earthquake recording, and the distance of the recording station from the hypocentre to find magnitude e.g. magnitude 5.8. For any given earthquake, the magnitude is a fixed number that does not vary regardless of which island you are located,” it says on its website.

“Intensity scales describe the severity of an earthquake by grading the effects on people, structures and geological formations. Each degree of intensity is described by a Roman numeral, (I, II, III etc.) and the effects of the earthquake roughly double in severity for each one-division increase in intensity. In the Western hemisphere, including the Eastern Caribbean, the most widely used scale is called the Modified Mercalli or MM scale. In the rest of the world an almost identical scale called the MSK scale is more common.

For any given earthquake, the Intensity may vary depending where you are in relation to the earthquake’s epicentre,” it added.

Posted in Climate/Weather, Environment, International, Local, Regional0 Comments

dominica storm

Caribbean leaders launch ambitious plan to create the world’s first “climate-smart zone”

PARIS, Dec 12, CMC – Caribbean Community (CARICOM) leaders have launched an ambitious plan to create the world’s first “climate smart zone” after two Category 5 hurricanes caused widespread devastation and death in the Lesser Antilles in September.

The Caribbean Climate-Smart Coalition aims to find a way to break through the systemic obstacles that stop finance flowing to climate-smart investments.

The leaders are of the opinion that with the right domestic and international reforms, the world can step up – and help unleash the means to catalyse an ambitious eight billion US dollar investment plan to bring greater energy and infrastructure resilience to 3.2 million Caribbean households.

dominica storm
Storm damage in Dominica (File Photo)

They said this would help Caribbean islands to eliminate their costly dependency on fossil fuels so that they can meet close to 100 per cent percent of their energy needs from renewable sources, and to embed resilience into communities and livelihoods to realise the bold ambitions of all Caribbean people.

The announcement of the new initiative was made at the One Planet Summit being hosted by French President Emmanuel Macron to review progress made on the Paris Agreement adopted by global governments two years ago.

Grenada’s Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell, who is also the chairman of the 15-member Caribbean Community (CARICOM) grouping, said “Caribbean leaders have come together as a powerful collective to build a better future for the people of the Caribbean.

“We welcome the financial commitments from our partners – around US$1.3 billion for recovery efforts and US$2.8 billion toward the vision shared by all members of the Coalition and others.

“This is a great first step. Now we need to turn this possibility into a set of realities that benefit all our people. We all need to work together to change the rules of the game to accelerate climate-smart financial flows for the Caribbean and other small island developing states.

“Together we can build thriving economies fuelled by clean energy, nature-based resilient design and innovation. The time for action is now,’ Mitchell said.

Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit, whose island, Dominica, was severely hit by Hurricane Maria on September 18, resulting in millions of dollars in damage, said that ”despite the immense human suffering and economic damage caused by the recent hurricanes, the people of the Caribbean do not want to be just passive victims of climate change.

“Rather, they want to be active participants in designing and implementing solutions, and for their Caribbean region to serve as a beacon of hope for island nations all over the world,” he added.

St. Lucia’s Prime Minister Allen Chastanet said “ultimately, we will only win the battle on climate change when investments in climate action and broader resilience become the economically sensible decision to make every time. It’s not just about protecting against negative impacts – climate action needs to be about enhancing competitiveness, creating jobs, improving our economies.

“Otherwise, our people cannot make the sacrifices needed. I’m pleased by the level of support from our Coalition partners and others. But I’m excited about the possibility for the Caribbean to incubate new powerful ideas, and accelerate their implementation,” he added.

Supported by funding and resources from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) Group, the World Bank Group and the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) a Caribbean Climate-Smart Accelerator with an estimated budget of six to  US$10 million for a three-year period is being established to catalyse billions of further public and private resources.

Caribbean leaders say they hope the coalition of financial institutions will invigorate the islands that have been impacted by recent hurricanes Irma and Maria, and help build more resilient infrastructure and communities across the region as the likelihood of future extreme weather events increases.

Coalition members will help to establish partnerships that can make investment deals happen. They will also bring their collective abilities together to break down the technological and financial barriers which represent the last obstacles to Caribbean people grasping the transformational opportunities that are in reach.

CDB president Dr. Warren Smith, said “the destruction our region experienced during the 2017 Atlantic Hurricane Season emphasises that we cannot afford to take a business-as-usual approach in tackling climate change.

“CDB, therefore, welcomes the establishment of the Caribbean Climate-Smart Coalition. The Bank shares the vision of the Coalition and we look forward to supporting and investing in solutions to accelerate progress towards achieving this goal,” he added.

IDB president Luis Alberto Moreno said his organisation “reaffirms its continued and historical commitment to the Caribbean and will work with leaders of the region to improve lives by creating climate-smart and vibrant economies, where people are safe, productive, and happy.

“We hope that through this Climate Smart Coalition, in addition to offering new affordable financing, we will use our wide physical presence on the ground to work closely with the people of the region to design their Caribbean of the future, today.”

For his part, the World Bank Group president Jim Yong Kim, said the Caribbean is in the ‘eye of the storm’ and “we need coordinated international support to rebuild and better plan for the future.

“At the World Bank Group, we welcome the Caribbean Climate-Smart Coalition and plan to support it so countries get back on their feet and are better able to deal with the growing frequency and intensity of storms and hurricanes.”

Achim Steiner, the administrator of the United Nations Development Programme, said the next hurricane season is only six months away so achieving climate-smart and resilient development for the Caribbean is critical.

“Affected individuals are the focus of the five billion dollars recovery process, but this effort will only be successful if it involves the private sector, civil society and governments at all levels working together for a more resilient Caribbean.

“Last month, close to $2.5 billion was pledged at a conference co-organized by CARICOM and UNDP for recovery and resilience in the Caribbean, and it is our objective to facilitate joint efforts with the work of the Caribbean Climate-Smart Coalition,” he added.

Sir Richard Branson, Founder Virgin Group, said much of the Caribbean has been going through immense human suffering and economic damage caused by the recent hurricanes.

“But I never had any doubts about the spirit and the resilience of Caribbean people. They have come together and decided to turn the Caribbean into a spark of hope for the world.

“The work of the Caribbean Climate-Smart Coalition will help to break down the remaining barriers between vision and reality, and will see the region not only recover from the catastrophic impacts of Irma and Maria. It will set a shining example of resilient reconstruction and clean energy transition,” he said.

Specifically, the Coalition’s work will focus on catalysing four initial critical priorities, namely scale renewable energy as rapidly as possible to help free Caribbean countries from the high cost of imported fossil fuels and the high vulnerability of centralised distribution systems, build low-carbon and resilient infrastructure including nature-based approaches, to better withstand future extreme weather events.

It will also be aimed at creating innovative financing models such as a debt-for-resilience swap initiative in exchange for demonstrated progress on policy reforms and investments to strengthen resilience and promote climate-smart growth pathways. Build platforms to help facilitate the large public and private investments required and strengthen the capacity of Caribbean countries and key regional institutions to plan for long-term resilience and climate smart growth strategies.

Chair of the Mary Robinson Foundation – Climate Justice, Mary Robinson, said “climate justice is all of our responsibility.

“We must stand alongside all the people of the Small Island Nations who will be most impacted by climate change. The recent hurricanes in the Caribbean have been devastating to watch, with people still homeless, without electricity and without livelihoods.

“We need to provide support in the form of immediate relief, and we also need to start working with them to build a resilient future where the people of the Caribbean can thrive. I’m thrilled to see the “Caribbean Climate Smart Coalition” being announced in Paris. It is wonderful to see Caribbean Leaders coming together with partners from all over the world to ensure that the Caribbean can serve as a beacon of hope for other Island Nations,” she said.

In a statement, the RISE Fund said it is committed to investing in businesses that create positive and measurable social or environmental impact alongside competitive financial returns.

“We’re excited about the Coalition’s work to help rebuild the power infrastructure in the Caribbean to provide more cost effective, resilient, and cleaner power. We look forward to working with the Coalition to identify investment opportunities that will drive positive commercial outcomes while helping to rebuild and strengthen local communities across the Caribbean,” the Fund added.

Posted in Business/Economy/Banking, Climate/Weather, Environment, International, Local, News, Regional0 Comments

Lethem Airstrip. Photo: Andrew Short

Guyana to build third international airport at frontier town with Brazil

Lethem Airstrip. Photo: Andrew Short

By Ray Chickrie
Caribbean News Now contributor

GEORGETOWN, Guyana — The government of Guyana plans to secure financing to upgrade and extend the runway and build a modern terminal at the Lethem airstrip with the intention of turning the airport into a “regional hub and international airport”. Lethem is a town close to the frontier of the Brazilian state of Roraima.

When the project is completed, Guyana will have three international airports.

The government is actively seeking a US$15 million loan to finance the project, which may finally open the frontier of Guyana to human settlement and development. This is important since the capital of Guyana, and low-lying areas along the coast are frequently inundated by heavy rainfall. For this reason, there has been a push to move the capital to the Essequibo region of Guyana.

Finance Minister Winston Jordan said on Monday during his 2018 budget presentation that the upgrade of the Lethem airstrip will allow for flights originating from Brazil and other Latin American neighbours to land there.

Meanwhile, the government has allocated GY$5 billion (US$24 million) to complete the upgrading of the Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA), which includes the runway, rehabilitation of the arrivals terminal, and the construction of a departure terminal. The upgraded airport will be able to accommodate larger aircraft and handle an increased number of passengers, Jordan noted.

The upgrading of the Lethem airstrip to accommodate regional flights will definitely spur development of the sleepy frontier town in the hinterland of Guyana that borders Brazil.

There is no air connectivity between Guyana and Brazil despite sharing a long border. People must travel to Suriname, Panama or Miami to get to Brazil from Guyana.

The government did not disclose the length of the planned extended runway. The current runway is about 6,000 ft and can easily be extended due the favourable geography and availability of land. The length of the runway will indicate what type of aircraft will land there.

Posted in Business/Economy/Banking, Environment, International, Local, News, Regional, Travel0 Comments

ECHO Factsheet – Caribbean – November 2017

ECHO Factsheet – Caribbean – November 2017

FACTS & FIGURES

6.2 million people have been affected throughout the Caribbean due to extreme drought in 2015 – a consequence of the El Niño weather phenomenon.

€61 million for disaster preparedness since 1994 European Commission assistance to the Caribbean:

€540.5 million since 1994

  • €378.3 million for Haiti
  • €162.2 million for the rest of the Caribbean.

Introduction

The Caribbean region is spread over a “hurricane belt” and surrounded by several tectonic plates. It is exposed to severe, recurring natural hazards. In 2017, the hurricane season (usually June to November) was extreme, with Irma and Maria – both category 5, maximum strength hurricanes – devastating Dominica, Cuba, Antigua & Barbuda, but also severely affecting Turks & Caicos, St Kitts & Nevis, Sint Maarten and Saint Martin, the British Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Haiti and Dominican Republic, and leaving millions destitute. The Caribbean is also prone to droughts, volcanic eruptions, tsunamis, flash floods, landslides, mudslides, droughts and earthquakes, as well as recurrent epidemics.

What are the needs?

Humanitarian aid in the Caribbean focuses on access to safe water, sanitation and hygiene, health care, shelter, or providing food assistance and relief items. The protection of displaced and migrant populations is required in some countries.

Given the region’s vulnerability to frequent disasters, enhancing local capacities to respond to natural hazards is vital. The Commission’s disaster preparedness programme (DIPECHO) therefore supports simple, cost-efficient preventive measures implemented by the communities and national systems, enabling them to protect lives and livelihoods before, during and after a disaster strikes. The Commission also supports the integration of disaster risk reduction (DRR) in all our projects, through specific targeted actions.

How are we helping?

Since 1994, the European Commission’s has funded €540.5 million in humanitarian aid to the Caribbean. €378.3 million have been dedicated to Haiti, particularly in the wake of the devastating earthquake of 12 January 2010 which claimed 222 750 lives. EU-funded programmes against the ongoing cholera epidemic and recurrent food insecurity by providing shelter, safe drinking water, healthcare, food assistance, protection, livelihood activities, and access to water and sanitation.

Throughout the region, €162.2 million has been allocated to humanitarian emergencies. For disaster-preparedness activities, the Commission has committed €61 million. The Commission focuses on linking emergency relief and longer term development interventions, helping to build the resilience of the most vulnerable population groups.

Following categories 5 hurricane Irma and Maria’s landfall in the Caribbean in September 2017, the Commission provided €2.9 million through the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the World Food Programme (WPF) and the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) to provide temporary shelters, safe drinking water, health and sanitation services and food aid, in Cuba, Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Saint Kitts and Nevis, St Maarten, and Turks and Caicos.

These events took place after an extreme drought that has affected over 6.2 million people in Caribbean countries since 2015 – a consequence of the El Niño weather phenomenon. As such, for the period of 2015-2017, the Commission has funded response interventions in Haiti (€12.2 million), the Dominican Republic (€1.1 million), and Cuba (€700 000) to mitigate the impact of the drought on people’s livelihoods, food security, nutritional status, and health. The total response for 2015-2017 amounts to €14 million.

After tropical storm Erika battered Dominica in August 2015, €300 000 were released to bring relief to victims, including access to water and sanitation, and hygiene promotion to minimise diseases and rebuild health services. Over €300 000 were also released to help bring relief to the victims of floods in Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent & the Grenadines following severe rains in December 2013. The assistance included distribution of food and relief items, access to water and sanitation, and hygiene promotion.

Through its DIPECHO programme, the Commission allocated €12.1 million for disaster preparedness across the Caribbean in 2015-2016. Projects funded included the promotion of early warning systems, strengthening health infrastructure, retrofitting shelters and school facilities to withstand disasters and improving awareness of the risks linked to earthquakes, tsunamis and hurricanes. In 2017, another €2 million were allocated for disaster preparedness.

Posted in Climate/Weather, Environment, General, International, Local, News, Regional0 Comments

Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit of The Commonwealth of Dominica speaking at the Investment Immigration Summit East Asia in Hong Kong earlier this month. (PRNewsfoto/Beacon Events)

Caribbean Prime Ministers Discuss the Recent Citizenship by Investment Prices After the Atlantic Hurricanes Earlier This Year

 News provided by

The Commonwealth of Dominica was impacted significantly by Hurricane Maria, a category 5 storm leaving behind a trail of devastation and over 50,000 people displaced. Earlier this month, Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit gave the opening address at the Investment Immigration Summit East Asia in Hong Kong.

     (Photo: http://mma.prnewswire.com/media/610028/Beacon_Events_Investment_Immigration_Summit.jpg )

“What we would like to recognize is that literally days after the hurricane, our Citizenship by Investment (CBI) programme was back on the road. While we were receiving 200+ miles wind, stakeholders were processing applications because we were able to advance our programme to ensure that we utilize technology to enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of our programme.”

When asked about whether Dominica will follow St. Kitts and Antigua in the recent controversial reduction of its CBI programme prices, Skerrit replied, “the government of Dominica has not taken any decision in respect to this matter. What I would like to see though, for the long-term benefit of the programme, is for there to be a base price for all the categories within our programmes based on a gentlemen agreement, that we shouldn’t go below a particular price point.”

Prime Minister Allen Chastanet of St Lucia also made an appearance at the Investment Immigration Summit in Hong Kong. When interviewed by the Investment Migration Insider, he confirmed that St Lucia will be accepting other currencies as part of their CIP programme, and are looking at the possibility of getting their domestic bank, Bank of St Lucia, to open a branch in Dubai as part of the IFC. Chastanet hopes to have it up and running before the end of the year, if not, by early January. They will be looking at accepting the Euro and the Yen first, and possibly Bitcoin.

The investment migration industry is now looking towards the Middle East and North African region and hoping to tap into the potential of this market. The sister event of the Hong Kong Summit, the 4th Annual Investment Immigration Summit MENA (IIS MENA), is coming to Dubai on 25-27 February 2018. The conference and exhibition will offer the latest and most comprehensive information on investment immigration programs from around the world including the USA, European Union, Canada, the Caribbean, Australia and the Pacific Islands. It will showcase the latest content offerings for the local Middle East market, focusing on the alternative pathways to migration.

Other key topics at the Summit include the Common Reporting Standard (CRS) that the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) developed in 2014, the latest trends for outbound investment migration in the MENA region, how to effectively manage and utilize dual citizenship, the relationship between wealth management, tax planning and citizenship by investment, addressing the global perception of citizenship-by-investment programs, and new investment programs entering the market.

The Summit will provide a platform for MENA migration agents along with High Net Worth representatives from the region, who have interests in overseas investment and migration opportunities, and are looking to secure a better future via the Citizenship by Investment and/or permanent residency options.

Enjoy a 10% discount on delegate tickets upon registration. Use promo code BD1057PR. Visit the website to view the full agenda and register for your delegate ticket: https://mena.investmentimmigrationsummit.com/

The 2-day conference with the workshop day will be presented in English. For further inquiries, email marketing@beaconevents.com.

ABOUT INVESTMENT IMMIGRTION SUMMIT WORLD SERIES 

Investment Immigration Summit World Series offers a unique angle which not only gives you unique access to the most updated information on the global investor market, intelligence on the latest trends driving HNWI interest but also the latest development in CRS and key tax strategies for the globally mobile while providing a platform for a comprehensive array of investment immigration programmes from around the world.

The last 12 months have seen huge changes in the political landscape around the globe. From Brexit to the US election among a number of notable developments such as the CRS, demand for better due-diligence on applicants and so on, there is need for a period of reflection across the investment immigration industry.

With an overview of programmes, updates on changes to process and regulation as well as expert insight into the climate for investment, geo political and economic drivers for HNWIs and the latest OECD requirements on Common Reporting Standards which all affect those seeking investment immigration opportunities, this conference offers a comprehensive update on the top investment immigration / citizenship-by-investment programmes worldwide, providing advisers, wealth managers and agents the information and tools that they need to give the best advice and strategies to their clients. For more information, visit our website on https://investmentimmigrationsummit.com/

ABOUT BEACON EVENTS 

Beacon is a major conference and exhibition organizer, producing first class international events that meet the challenges facing major business sectors today. Beacon’s focus is on large-scale, must-attend events that are independently researched and tailored to deliver unbiased and focused market information. From Finance & Investment, Mining & Technology, to Gaming events and conferences, we deliver the critical business information which enables success.

Contact: Marie-Louise Adlercreutz, Tel: +971-4-338-5690

SOURCE Beacon Events

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